Doubts heighten over 14 February elections

Doubts heighten over 14 February elections

Saturday, February 7, 2015 3:10 pm

*INEC chair Jega speaks about ‘new developments’
*Press Conference awaited

Prof. Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman: to address the press on 'new developments'

Prof. Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman: to address the press on ‘new developments’

Nigeria’s knife-edge presidential elections were thrown into increasing doubt on Saturday as the country’s election commission met following reports that the military was pushing for a delay.

The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega, told delegates that there were “new developments” in preparations for next Saturday’s planned poll.

It is understood that the closed-door meeting in Abuja was about reported recommendations from the military high command to delay polling by six weeks.

Nigeria’s Weekly Trust newspaper, which did not quote sources, said the chiefs of defence staff and national security advisor had written to Jega “strongly advising” a six-week postponement.

Troops from Nigeria, backed by soldiers from Chad, Cameroon and Niger, were mounting a regional fight-back against Boko Haram and needed more time to bring security to the troubled region.

As such, no soldiers would be available to provide security next week, the newspaper said.

There was no immediate response from the military when contacted by AFP and INEC has scheduled a news conference for later on Saturday.

Jega has been under mounting pressure to delay polling because of increased fears about the distribution of permanent voter cards to 68.8 million registered electors.

Nigeria’s national security advisor last month called for a delay to ensure that all cards were delivered but INEC has repeatedly ruled out a date change.

On Thursday, Jonathan, Buhari and other former heads of state met in Abuja and again discussed the possibility of a delay. But Jega stood firm.

– Violence fears –

President Goodluck Jonathan, battered by criticism over his handling of the Boko Haram crisis, corruption and the economy, is seeking a second four-year term of office.

But seven days out, the result is seen as too close to call, even as Muhammadu Buhari, the main opposition candidate and former military ruler, has predicted he will secure a “landslide victory”.

Dawn Dimowo, from the africapractice consulting firm, said on Friday that any delay “could lead to enhanced stability” and allow logistical problems with voting to be resolved.

But it could prompt a violent reaction from angered opposition supporters, who are hoping to inflict a defeat on the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the first time in 16 years.

In 2011, some 1,000 people were killed in post-poll rioting. This year Boko Haram’s control of territory in three northeast states has made voting impossible for hundreds of thousands of people.

Since the turn of the year, the militant group has increased the intensity of its campaign, in part to further undermine the democratic process, which it views as un-Islamic.

Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) party has already said the overall result will be in doubt if displaced people in its northeastern stronghold are disenfranchised.

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